OLD OVERHOLT STRAIGHT RYE WHISKEY
MASH BILL – undisclosed
PROOF – 86
AGE – 3 years
DISTILLERY – A. Overholt & Co. (Jim Beam Distillery)
PRICE – $20
BUY AGAIN? – No
Now and then a reboot is in order. Old Overholt has been a bottom-shelf staple for seeming ever. Still aged 3 years, the new 2020 edition of the standard offering ups the proof from 80 to 86 and is now non-chill filtered, allowing more of the natural flavors to remain. The label has also seen some cosmetic changes, simplifying the overall look just a bit and putting a crotchety frown on Old Overholt’s face—a funny idea embracing the “old” in Old Overholt.
Other plans are afoot as well. Later this year, the same label and filtration adjustments will be applied to the standard Bottled in Bond offering. In addition, a 114-proof, 4-year edition will be released, and, most intriguing, a 92.6-proof, 11-year limited edition. Both will be on my hunting list!
As for the current bottle on the table, these brief notes were taken about a month after un-cracking (it’s a screw cap) and halfway into the bottle. A traditional Glencairn seemed somehow at odds with this no-nonsense rye, so I poured a bit into a basic tumbler.
COLOR – pale, exceptionally clear honey-amber
NOSE – granular baking spices, soft rye florals, apricot, peanut, dusty oak, fresh sliced bread
TASTE – the baking spices stirred into light creamy caramel, peanut brittle, a bit of tannic wood
FINISH – a mild peppery tingle, the rye florals return, the tannic wood aspects linger alongside faint remnants of the caramel
OVERALL – a basic pour, good for mixing or waking up your palate for a rye flight
This is fine. I would say that the extra year and 14 additional proof points in the Bottled in Bond version help give this mash bill a bit more distinction, though even that bottling only achieves a similar level of averageness. I prefer Old Overholt to its bourbon Beam cousin, Old Grand Dad, which aims for a similar place (and price) on the shelf. Whereas Old Grand Dad’s high-rye bourbon mash bill offers fruit flavors, Old Overholt offers rye florals. So choosing one over the other is a matter of taste, and what one plans to put the whiskey toward—some particular cocktail or a warm up to other pours.
I appreciate the makers of Old Overholt embracing their humor by inverting Overholt’s smile to a frown. Recognizing the increased appetite in the whiskey community for detail, the shift to a non-chill filtered bottling with a touch more kick to the proof is likewise appreciated. Not every whiskey needs to be a stand-alone blockbuster. There is a use for these bottom-shelfers. I’m not big on cocktails and drink most of my whiskey neat. But sometimes I’m in the mood for no-nonsense whiskeys like Old Overholt, something cheap and low in proof that doesn’t demand special attention but still tastes good and has some history and thought behind it.
In those respects, Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey is a good standby. And I do look forward to the 114-proof and 11-year editions. This rye mash bill is solid, and the opportunity to try it in more extreme variations is welcomed. So, until then…